Lava flows to the sea at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (left) photograph courtesy of the National Park Service. Spectacular view of Many Glaciers Hotel at Glacier National Park (right) photograph courtesy of the National Park Service.
Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
World Heritage Sites in the United States

Grand Canyon National Park
Northern Arizona
 
Spectacular and sweeping panorama of Grand Canyon National Park. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service. Grand Canyon National Park.
National Park Service

There is nothing else like it. The Grand Canyon is among the earth's greatest ongoing geological spectacles. Visitors the world over come each year to view its grandeur. Its vastness is stunning, and the evidence it reveals about the earth's history is invaluable. The 1.5-kilometer (0.9 mile) deep gorge ranges in width from 500 meters (0.3 miles) to 30 kilometers (18.6 miles). As it winds it way through the Colorado Plateau in northern Arizona, it twists and turns for over 445 kilometers (276.5 miles).

The great canyon was formed by geologic activity and erosion by the Colorado River over a period of six million years.  The buttes, spires, mesas, and temples in the canyon are in fact mountains looked down upon from the rims. The horizontal layers of rock exposed in the canyon retrace a geological history of over two billion years.

The Grand Canyon provides exceptional examples of biological environments found at different elevations. Exposed within the canyon’s walls are five of North America’s seven life zones displaying the wide variety of plant and animal species present here through eons of time.

Nature’s beauty is on constant display at the canyon’s rims. Visitors are awed by the canyon’s powerful landscapes, its breathtaking plunging depths, the temple-like butts, and the panoramic multi-colored topography. Scenic wonders within park boundaries include high plateaus, plains, deserts, forests, cinder cones, lava flows, streams, waterfalls, not to mention one of America's great whitewater rivers.  The Grand Canyon is viewed with wide-eyed wonder by all who see it.

American Indians celebrate at the Grand Canyon on Native American Heritage Day. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service. Native American Heritage Day celebration at
Grand Canyon National Park.
National Park Service

More than simply a site to behold, the Grand Canyon forms a rich cultural landscape that has been lived in, traveled through, and marveled at by various groups of people over time. Human activity in the Grand Canyon area dates as far back as the prehistoric era, when Paleo-Indian peoples inhabited the area nearly 12,000 years ago. Today, at least nine contemporary Native American tribes are culturally linked to the area. In the 16th century, Spanish colonists became the first Europeans to lay eyes on the Grand Canyon’s sweeping views. More interested in accessing the Colorado River than taking in the scenic vistas, however, the Spanish left the area after failing to descend the gorge.

 In 1857, members of a U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers survey expedition became the first non-indigenous individuals to view the Grand Canyon in the 200 years that passed since the Spaniards’ expedition. Throughout the latter half of the 19th century, the Grand Canyon served as the focal point for many an expedition, attracting adventurers, prospectors, and scientists alike.

Among the listings in the National Register of Historic Places in the park, the Grand Canyon has five individual buildings and two historic districts that are included as nationally significant National Historic Landmarks: El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon Railroad Depot, Grand Canyon Lodge, Grand Canyon Park Operations Building (also known as Ranger Operations) and the Grand Canyon Power House and Grand Canyon Village (257 contributing properties) and the Mary Colter Buildings. Visitors can make reservations to stay in the historic lodgings and view these and other impressive historic properties that reflect the park's rich cultural history. One historic place from the early era of Grand Canyon tourism is the El Tovar Hotel. This former Harvey House hotel was built on the very edge of the south rim of the Grand Canyon in 1905. As one of a chain of hotels and restaurants in conjunction with the Santa Fe Railway, it was once visualized as a unique and unsurpassed travel experience only for the wealthy. Today, it is still open as a hotel for tourists to the Grand Canyon. Other historic places include the Mary Jane Colter Buildings, which are named for their architect: Mary Colter. These buildings are Hermit's Rest, Desert View Watchtower, Lookout Studio, and Hopi House, all built in the early 1900s. Visitors can still climb to the top of a 70 ft. tall stone Watchtower and enjoy a panoramic view that extends for more than 100 miles on a clear day.

Hikers look out at Plateau Point at the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service. Hikers enjoy lunch at the South Rim.
National Park Service

North Rim or South, visitors to Grand Canyon National Park have a wide array of options for experiencing this powerful landscape. On the South Rim, visitors can attend free ranger-led programs, ride a mule along the canyon rim or an overnight ride into the bottom of the canyon, hike the Rim Trail to view the canyon from a series of overlooks, and visit several museums and information centers that house exhibits and provide park information. Additionally, visitors have the opportunity to make reservations for a whitewater or smooth water trip on the Colorado River, or visit the Tusayan Museum and Ruin to learn about early Pueblo culture.

With its facilities open from May into October every year, the Grand Canyon’s North Rim has a much shorter season than the South Rim, and receives many fewer visitors. The North Rim remains open to visitors for day use (sunrise to sunset) through December 1 or until snow closes Highway 67 leading into the park. Visitors to the North Rim may stop by the North Rim Visitor Center for access to interpretive exhibits, maps, and park information, or attend a daily interpretive ranger program. Here, visitors are offered a choice of several trails from which they can take a day hike, participate in a mule trip, or take in the view from their vehicles along the North Rim Scenic Drive.

 

Plan your visit

Grand Canyon National Park is a World Heritage Site and unit of the National Park System. The Grand Canyon South Rim is located 60 miles north of Williams, AZ and 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff, AZ. The Grand Canyon North Rim is located 30 miles south of Jacob Lake, AZ. The Grand Canyon South Rim is open daily 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The South Rim Visitor Center is open daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm. The Grand Canyon North Rim is open seasonally, from mid-May through mid-October. The North Rim Visitor Center is open daily from 8:00am to 6:00pm, from mid-May through mid-October. For more information, visit the National Park Service Grand Canyon National Park website or call 928-638-7888.

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